Polo and Tucker could get by on good looks alone. But the alpacas are useful animals as well, each producing about 4.25 pounds of soft wool every year — enough to keep owner Sue DeWeese in yarn for a lot of projects — after she spins the yarn.
Owning alpacas and learning to spin have been on DeWeese’s “bucket list” for several years. The alpacas came to the DeWeese Pratt County farm about two years ago. Spinning is a new skill. She describes her product as “art yarn,” full of bumps, but it knits up nicely into caps and scarves.
Alpacas are native to South America, but have adapted well to Kansas climate. The animals have a shed in their pen, but seem to use it one at a time. One will stand in the doorway and not let the other in, DeWeese said, and at some point they will switch places. Her animals are seven years old and have reached full size, standing about 5 feet tall from head to toe.
She previously had a pair of llamas, which like alpacas, are members of the camelid family, but they were a little harder to control and too big for the grandchildren to handle. Polo and Tucker are friendly, social animals, and can be haltered and led without any problem.
“Tucker is our little PR guy,” she said. “When I go out to feed them, he puts his head on my shoulder to make sure I get the right amount of food.”
Dwane and Sue DeWeese purchased the animals from Flatland Alpaca Ranch at Rose Hill, which she said has a herd of about 30. In April, they will load Polo and Tucker into a trailer for a trip back to the ranch for a haircut, a manicure and their annual shots. After the wool is sheared, DeWeese will pick out burrs and debris — alpacas like to roll on the ground — and take the fleece to Shepherd’s Mill at Phillipsburg.
She receives the wool back in rovings — long strips of soft wool that pull apart easily, but can be spun into a strong two-ply yarn. Last year’s harvest filled four large plastic bags.
The mill would spin it into yarn, but that would take away part of the fun.
“I always have to have something new going,” DeWeese said. “I’m just that kind of person. The shop here (Sue’s Ultimate Embroidery) is a good place to incorporate it.”
She has plans to share her love of spinning, either by bringing the wheel into the shop, taking it to school classes, or setting up a demonstration at the county fair.
She also talked about taking Tucker and Polo to visit residents of nursing homes, something that is done in other areas.
Just owning the alpacas and spinning their wool is not the bottom of her bucket list.